Terry Fontenot: We’re excited about Matt Ryan, but have to evaluate incoming QBs

The Falcons have the fourth overall pick in the upcoming draft, and there’s been plenty of speculation that they could take a quarterback to be Matt Ryan‘s successor.

With General Manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith reportedly “aligned” on their vision for the top pick, Atlanta has sent representatives to the Pro Days with the top incoming passers. As Fontenot said in a clip of an interview released by the team, that methodology is both about the present and the future.

“That’s critical because that’s a position that regardless of where you are at your starter — we’re so excited about Matt Ryan, but we have to evaluate every one of these quarterbacks,” Fontenot said. “Not just for now, when you think big picture, if you have an opportunity — for example Trevor Lawrence, when you have an opportunity to see that player in person throw, then you have to take advantage of that. Even if you’re not going to have the opportunity at him this year, you don’t know what’s going to happen three, four, five years from now in the future. So you want to take advantage of that in-person exposure.

“That’s why we see every single one of these quarterbacks. We want to, as much as we can, get to them, see them in person, and just take advantage of those exposures because it’s the most critical position in the NFL and we want to stack good quarterbacks. It’s a prime time to do it when you have a player like Matt Ryan, because when you can get in the right quarterback, you don’t have that pressure to play him right away. So it opens up so many possibilities, and we have to make sure we’re evaluating those positions. And we feel good about where we are there.”

Though the Falcons finished 4-12 in 2020, Ryan still played at a solid level, completing 65 percent of his passes for 4,581 yards with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Ryan turns 36 in May, so there’s reason to believe he may have a few quality years left — particularly if Smith can replicate the effective ground attack he put together as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator.

The Jaguars, Jets, and 49ers appear set to take quarterbacks with the first, second, and third overall picks. The Falcons could add a fourth QB to that list, but they’ve also reportedly had exploratory talks with teams about trading back to gain additional assets.

Whether the Falcons decide to select Ryan’s successor, the top non-QB, or trade the pick, there should be plenty of intrigue when Atlanta comes on the clock at No. 4 overall.